It’s a lifestyle change common to young Coloradans: Accustomed to freewheeling schedules that allow for lots of outdoor fun, they pay little attention to their homes—until they find themselves married, starting families, and wondering where the heck they’re going to put the kids.
So it was with Ashawn Korb and Mike Koenig when they were expecting their second child. They knew the 1,000 square feet in their 1960s-era South Boulder ranch would be too tight a squeeze. But after a long search for a new home, they realized a remodel was preferable to starting somewhere new. “We like our location, and we like our lot—it’s a bit bigger than your average lot in Boulder,” Koenig says. “And with our first daughter being born here, we have strong feelings of attachment to the house.”
Open upper shelves display the homeowners’ favorite finds while boosting the kitchen’s airiness.
The couple sought the help of their friend and architect Brian Fuentes, principal and owner of Fuentes Design, whose work in sustainable remodels they admire.
From the dining area, nine-foot-wide folding doors (and a matching nine-foot-wide custom countertop with a folding window) open to a shaded patio.
Fuentes brought in his colleagues Steven Rouisse and Megan Monroe, and the group embarked on a six-month overhaul that took the house down to its studs and rebuilt it as a high-performing energy saver with a new second floor—roughly 1,200 additional square feet, complete with a master suite and deck, a bedroom, a loft, and a rooftop patio.
The adobe-style fireplace with a custom concrete bench was central to the interior plan. It’s where the family gathers indoors, especially in winter.
Fuentes designed the home to be a “passive” house (a construction movement that started in Germany and is slowly becoming more popular stateside). Passive houses are designed to require little energy for heating and cooling. With a newly installed ventilation system, strategically placed windows, and shading in the yard from trees, the house stays comfortable in the summer without air conditioning. In colder months, the wood-burning fireplace provides supplemental heat (two mini-split pumps—HVAC alternatives—also warm or cool air). “The house is super high-tech, but handcrafted fixtures and other thoughtful finishes make the mechanical systems all go away,” Fuentes says.
The couple built a freestanding garage clad in snow fence that Koenig hauled home in a trailer from Wyoming. The building includes a studio the family uses as a meditation room or for extra play space.
Which is precisely the point: Korb and Koenig wanted a home that looks good and functions well. The warm decor uses natural materials and a soothing, neutral palette inspired by the couple’s travels to Santa Fe, New Mexico, Sedona, Arizona, and the tiny town of Norwood in southwestern Colorado. An adobe fireplace by Ryan Chivers of Boulder-based Artesano Plaster—he also did the interior walls—is the focal point of the main level, a space that encourages family time with nary a TV in sight. “It was important to us to have a warm, thoughtful hearth as the centerpiece of the home,” Korb says. Fuentes Design complemented the fireplace’s glow with a square recessed sconce, which is backlit with LED lights.
Homeowners Ashawn Korb and Mike Koenig continue to expand their urban homestead (Korb grew up on a farm in Wisconsin); in addition to garden beds and a greenhouse off the master suite’s deck, they crafted this chicken coop.
The living room flows into the kitchen and dining area, where simplicity and functionality reign. Nicholas Norbut of Boulder’s Defined Details created the custom cabinetry from reclaimed barnwood; he also built the rectangular table (which doubles as an island) using fence-post legs topped with a maple slab. A trio of nine-foot-wide folding doors opens to the shaded patio and extends the living space in summer; a folding window reveals an outdoor bar. The windows are triple-paned and custom-designed to the millimeter, creating a perfect seal when shut.
In the master suite upstairs, a three-quarter wall separates the bedroom from the couple’s closets, which also feature reclaimed barnwood. In the master bath, the sleek Victoria & Albert tub and concrete sink and floors emphasize the minimalist aesthetic.
A three-quarter wall behind the clean-lined bed separates the master bath and suite upstairs from the couple’s closets.
But this time of year, the owners spend most of their time outside: A freestanding garage—clad in reclaimed snow fencing from Wyoming—houses a studio and meditation room, which doubles as extra play space for the kids. (Koenig is the co-founder of Studio Shed, a Boulder-based company that makes prefabricated backyard structures like this one, a prototype of a new design.)
The master bath features a Victoria & Albert tub, concrete floors, and a custom concrete sink.
A native Virginian, Koenig also lobbied for the wraparound porch. “We never used the front of the house before; now it’s where we spend most of our time in summer,” Korb says. The couple has added a chicken coop and keeps enough hens to give them six eggs a day. Garden beds grace the home’s front yard, and on the master suite’s second-level deck, the couple built a greenhouse.
The home is now uniquely suited to the family’s holistic approach to life. “Return on investment was never really the question driving our choices,” Koenig says. “We decided to invest in higher-quality design because we knew we’d be here for the long haul. It’s hard to predict the future, but this is where we wanted to establish our roots.”